Posted: 11/12/2010 | Last updated: November 12, 2010 at 09:50 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh cross country teams will have something to prove this weekend as they compete at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifiers at the Penn State Blue and White Golf Course. Both Mountain Hawk teams had somewhat disappointing team results at the Patriot League Championships on October 30, but see regional meet as an opportunity to bounce back with a strong showing.
The Lehigh women approach Saturday’s meet looking to erase the bitter taste caused by a seventh place finish at the Patriot League Championships. Individual times were strong, but that did not translate to good scores two weeks ago at Lafayette. That performance knocked the Mountain Hawks out of the regional rankings. Lehigh is hoping to regain that ranking status with a strong showing on Saturday.
“As a team we’ve done a lot of searching as to why we finished so low at Patriots,” said women’s head coach Debbie Utesch. “We haven’t been able to pinpoint any single factor. It gets to the point where you just have to let it go. I know we’re a top 15 team in this region. Our runners know it. Now we have to go out and run like it.”
Junior Katherine Pierce is the top threat on the women’s side, as she led the Mountain Hawks with a tenth place finish at the league championships. Pierce also placed 49th at last year’s regional qualifier to lead the Brown and White. Among the top runners for the Lehigh women are seniors Andrea Mascaro, Kaitlin Grimm and Alexis Weiner, sophomore Victoria Berard and freshmen Jessica Kendzor, Katherine Howley and Hannah Pierce. Lehigh did run on Penn State’s course at the Penn State Invitational on October 16, with pretty good results.
“If we can race the way we did at Penn State in October and Katherine (Pierce) runs like she’s capable of, we’re a better team,” said Utesch. “We have no indication from the way the girls have looked at practice and even how we performed at Patriots that we’re not in that same place as a team. Everyone’s a scorer. Every pass is a two-point swing. We’re going into it with a more aggressive mindset. We’re focusing less on each other and more on who we’re racing.”
Regionally, Mid-Atlantic is one of the toughest women’s qualifying meets, with No. 1 Villanova, No. 5 Georgetown, No. 19 Princeton and No. 28 Penn State all on hand.
On the men’s side, Lehigh’s Evans Kosgei placed second overall in the Patriot League, but no other Mountain Hawk finished in the top 15 as Lehigh finished fifth in the team standings. Kosgei finished 17th last year at regionals, the highest-ever finish for a Lehigh male. He enters this weekend with a chance to become Lehigh’s first men’s NCAA Championships qualifier since the debut of the regional qualifying meets.
“Mentally, he’s one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever seen,” said Lehigh head coach Todd Etters of Kosgei. “He’s able to go out and focus in on the task at hand. Going out and running doesn’t seem like a big deal to him. He’s one of those guys where he makes up his mind on something, whether its academic or athletic and just goes out and delivers on it.
Etters continues, “For us as a team its about rebounding from Patriots. I don’t’ think we performed all that well as a team. We sat down as a team and discussed why we didn’t do well at Patriots, and now we’re looking at regionals as an opportunity to redeem ourselves. Evans was the one guy who did run well, so hopefully he can keep his confidence up and deliver on Saturday.”
Lehigh enters Saturday’s meet ranked 15th in the Mid-Atlantic region by the USTFCCCA. Among others who will be looked upon to contribute this weekend include seniors Andrew Jervis and Steve Sample, junior Evan Flach and freshman Jimmy Miller.
“I’m expecting the rest of the team to run in a tight pack,” Etters said. “We can only run seven guys, so the other six should be able to run close to the same level. From there I’d look for two or three to break out and finish high. A couple guys were frustrated after Patriots, but are excited to get after it again.”
The men’s 10K race features three nationally ranked schools in No. 17 Princeton, No. 26 Penn State and No. 29 Villanova.
The top two teams at each of nine NCAA qualifying meets plus the top four individuals at each meet who are not on an automatic qualifying team will earn a spot at the NCAA Championships, November 22 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Thirteen at-large teams and two at-large individuals will be selected from a national pool on Sunday evening.
Action at the Mid-Atlantic Regional gets underway with the women’s 6K at 12 p.m., with the men’s 10K to follow at 1:15 p.m.